I am not sure exactly why, but lasers fascinate me. Maybe I’ve watched too many Jedi movies over the years or maybe it’s a by-product of the times in which I grew up, but lasers, and the idea of what some of them are capable of doing, give me a thrill. Wicked Lasers, a company that was recognized in the 1997 Guinness Book of World Records for producing the world’s (they also have a flashlight under consideration for being the brightest and most powerful), has long been synonymous with professional quality, high-powered lasers. These are not the tacky cheap plastic laser pointers that you can buy at most convenience stores, these are lasers that will actually burn things, cut things, and point out things fifty miles away or more. We’ve looked at green and red lasers on Gear Diary before, but I happen to have in my possession something quite different, and in my opinion possibly better: a true violet Blu-ray laser, the Sonar Advanced 100mW.
According to Wikipedia, these numbers show the continuous or average power required for some uses:
- less than 1 mW – laser pointers
- 5 mW – CD-ROM drive
- 5–10 mW – DVD player or DVD-ROM drive
- 100 mW – High-speed CD-RW burner
- 250 mW – Consumer DVD-R burner
- 1 W – green laser in current Holographic Versatile Disc prototype development
- 1–20 W – output of the majority of commercially available solid-state lasers used for micro machining
- 30–100 W – typical sealed CO2 surgical lasers
- 100–3000 W (peak output 1.5 kW) – typical sealed CO2 lasers used in industrial laser cutting
- 1 kW – Output power expected to be achieved by a prototype 1 cm diode laser bar
So my 100mW laser is the same strength used in a high-speed CD-RW burner, more powerful than those used for micro-machining, as strong as the typical sealed CO2 surgical laser, and at the bottom of the scale for those used in industrial laser cutting. This puts the power in perspective for me, that this is a tool which should be respected.
Included in my package was the laser, a set of LaserShades safety glasses, a caution statement, and a user manual. Let’s take a peek …
These included red LaserShades are adjustable to fit the wearer’s face, and they are designed to shield the front and sides of the eyes. They should be worn at all times when using the laser around anything that might reflect the beam, because even the lowest powered lasers are dangerous to the eye when their beam hits directly or through reflection; care must always be taken not to do this. It is my understanding that looking at the beam is not a problem, although the green laser I reviewed last year was so bright that I thought even looking at its beam might be damaging.
The caution statement is basically included because of idiots who don’t understand that aiming a laser pointer of any milli-watt designation at an aircraft is not only unsafe, it is illegal. Those who continue to take their chances by doing this may make laser ownership for everyone illegal. There’s always a spoil sport out there who wants to ruin everyone else’s fun; don’t be that guy (or girl)!
Wicked Lasers do not ship with batteries included, and the Sonar Advanced 100mW takes two CR123 batteries. Since this type battery is not incredibly common at most corner stores, I went ahead and ordered six online from InfiniteLights.com which cost about $17 including shipping.
The Sonar Advanced comes in a black presentation box. When the laser arrived, it had a yellow sticker affixed to it which displayed the laser class (3R), the mW (<500mW), and a serial number; there was also an extra label in the box. For the purpose of taking these pictures I removed the label, but be advised that for safety reasons the label should really be left on.
Going once again to Wikipedia, “lasers are usually labeled with a safety class number, which identifies how dangerous the laser is.” These safety class numbers are as follows:
- Class I/1 is inherently safe, usually because the light is contained in an enclosure, for example in CD players.
- Class II/2 is safe during normal use; the blink reflex of the eye will prevent damage. Usually up to 1 mW power, for example laser pointers.
- Class IIIa/3R lasers are usually up to 5 mW and involve a small risk of eye damage within the time of the blink reflex. Staring into such a beam for several seconds is likely to cause (minor) eye damage.
- Class IIIb/3B can cause immediate severe eye damage upon exposure. Usually lasers up to 500 mW, such as those in CD and DVD writers.
- Class IV/4 lasers can burn skin, and in some cases, even scattered light can cause eye and/or skin damage. Many industrial and scientific lasers are in this class.
The Sonar Advanced 100mW is a Class 3R laser, which is “considered safe if handled carefully, with restricted beam viewing.” The Sonar Advanced measures approximately 6″ long x 0.75″ wide, and it has a substantial heft without being too weighty. The laser’s body is composed of “6061-T6 Aircraft-Grade Aluminum”, which I mistook for stainless steel upon first glance. The body is very rigid and except for the battery cover on the there are no removable parts. This laser feels more like a finely crafted tool than some of the others I’ve seen.
When it comes to the Sonar Advanced, nothing is left to chance. It is purposeful, powerful and designed for performance. One press and you will know exactly why. The very model of engineered perfection, the Sonar Advanced is equipped with a burning violet laser diode. Its performance is perfectly matched with the latest in luxury design and safety including the patented MiniLock™ safety technology.
|Size:||19.8mm x 149mm|
|Laser Body:||6061-T6 Aircraft-Grade Aluminum|
|Output Power:||100 – 150mW|
|1mm @ aperture|
|Switch:||Momentary On / Off Button|
|Expected lifetime:||>5,000 hours|
*The NOHDs were calculated based on a 0.25 second accidental (unaided eye) exposure.
The bottom end of the laser unscrews to reveal the battery compartment. On that removable end there is a strange screw-down knob which has a cutout to allow it to lie flush against the curve of the shaft.
This knob is the, which is actually meant to be pulled out to completely disable the laser. So to clarify, if the MiniLock is in place – like this – the laser will work.
But if the MiniLock has been removed – as shown here – the laser will not work. That’s pretty straightforward, right? Since you should always treat your laser like a knife (or any other potentially dangerous weapon), it would be prudent to keep the MiniLock removed and in another place when you aren’t using the laser — especially if you have curious children or immature friends (we all know someone like that!) who might be tempted to play with it and hurt themselves (or someone else) if you weren’t there to supervise.
This is the business end of the laser: it’s push button operated, and there is an LED emission indicator directly in front of the button which will glow red when the laser is being operated.
And this is the only time you should ever stare at the laser aperture area – while the laser is not on.
Note: I could not find a way to capture the laser as the eye sees it — an absolutely gorgeous shade of purple. No matter what I did, the photos always came out blue.
As expected, the laser is highly visible even with a ton of natural and artificial light. Although the violet / Blu-ray laser is rated as strong (or stronger) as the green ones we have reviewed before, the beam does not appear as intense, mainly meaning that you will see the pinpoint of light where you point, but you are not going to see a lightsaber-esque beam behind it; of course, some may consider that a con.
Here is another shot of the purple (blue) beam in bright light. It should be absolutely fabulous in a classroom setting, even if the item being highlighted is 50 yards (or more) away.
So why would you even want a laser like this? The easy answers would include how it can be used to easy point out stars in the night sky – even the furthest ones away, and it’s also great for classroom use, as I previously mentioned. But here are some more …
Practical Laser Uses
Our average Wicked Laser customer is a laser hobbyist who wants a laser to use for entertainment. Don’t be mistaken though, Wicked Lasers have many legitimate practical uses including some of the following:
Military and Law Enforcement: Lasers are used by US forces in Iraq to paint (identify) targets and intimidate the enemy. Military professionals prefer Wicked Lasers to typical laser dazzlers for its sheer power and performance in a size that is similar to a ballpoint pen case.
Astronomy: Because wicked lasers are strong enough to see a beam of light, they are ideal for pointing out star constellations. The next time someone tries to show you Orion’s belt or Zeus in the stars, hand them the Wicked Laser and make them trace it out. They can even be velcro mounted to a telescope to help you aim better.
Search and Rescue: They are a highly visible flare that can be used over and over again; here they represent the power to save a life.
Outdoor Work Sites: Wicked lasers can also be useful at outdoor work sites. Construction managers use lasers to align pipes, walls, signs or any piece of construction material. Write with light and guide others with precision.
PC Shops: Shops that require fiber optical maintenance tools, will appreciate the additional power to find fiber interruptions and line breaks in fiber optic technologies with lasers.
Arts and Entertainment: Used on CSI: NY, in laser shows and to illuminate artwork, Wicked Lasers command attention and ignite imaginations.
Physics Labs: Students take notice when a teacher uses a laser with power far beyond anything they can buy in an office supply store.
Medical: Since 1967, healthcare professionals have used lasers to reduce pain and speed healing. [WARNING: Wicked Lasers are not FDA approved for medical use in the US].
Other Uses: From dispersing birds and other animal intruders to identifying fiber optic circuits, uses for Wicked Lasers products are limited only by your imagination.
I had a bear of time taking photos of the violet laser at night, but here are a few shots …
These photos were taken by lightly spraying water on the beam.
This is fun – see the gas tank which sits over 100 yards from our back door?
I couldn’t capture the blue with my camera until it got darker, but it is there.
A perennial laser trick is popping balloons, so this review wouldn’t be complete without that test …
… and the Sonar Advanced aced it from about 2.5 feet away. Try doing that with your typical cheap plastic laser pointer!
Laser Pointer Safety Tips:
- Do not allow minors to use a laser pointer unsupervised. Furthermore, only allow adults to use laser pointers after they have understood the responsibilities and risks that it carries.
- Never shine a laser pointer at anyone, especially their face. Even temporary exposure can cause significant damage to the eye. Laser pointers are designed to point at inanimate objects.
- Always be conscious of where you’re pointing. Avoid pointing a laser at any reflective surfaces. Unintentionally reflected beams can easily violate tip #2.
- Never use your laser pointer in the vicinity of airports, highways, construction sites or anywhere individuals need to constantly pay attention to their work for their own safety. A split-second distraction–a sudden laser light in a plane cockpit, for example–can be disastrous.
- Be especially cautious around high-powered lasers, like green laser pointers used for stargazing. They are far stronger than the red pointers commonly used during lectures. And do not purchase a laser pointer at all if it does not identify its class or power.
- Do not purchase a laser pointer if it does not have a caution or danger sticker on it identifying its class. Report suspicious devices to the FDA.
This comparison chart will give you an idea of some of the things you can do with different strength lasers …
Of all the lasers I have played with, I like this one the best; mainly because the violet light is different (and in my opinion prettier) than all of the other red and green sabers … and yet it is just as strong. The only thing worth noting is that because the violet beam isn’t as bright as a green or red laser, the sky needs to be a bit darker when using the violet laser to point out constellations. Whether you use it to conduct your own, or you simply want it to use for pointing out objects across a classroom, the Blu-ray Sonar Advanced is one Wicked Laser!
MSRP: $497.97 (includes a pair of laser shields
What I Like: The violet laser beam is unusual and pretty; the laser does not appear as startlingly bright as the same strength green, and yet it is just as strong; quality of the laser body is very high; the MiniLock is a brilliantly effective yet simple to implement safety mechanism
What Needs Improvement: It’s expensive … there is no way around that; care must be taken to ensure that children and idiots do not have access to your high-powered laser